Secret benefit of one extra hour’s sleep
WE are all slaves to sleep. We only have to endure one night of deprivation before our ability to function deteriorates. Besides groggy mornings and a cranky mood, insufficient shut eye can add extra inches to your waistline.
A recent study published in the leading medical journal Sleep showed that sleeplessness costs our economy $66 billion each year. This mind-blowing sum stems directly from $26.2b a year in health bills, lost productivity and accident expenses, and a further $40.1b in loss of wellbeing.
Although this finding may be hard to fathom, it seems tangible when you consider that 75 per cent of Australians struggle to achieve adequate sleep each night.
THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP
An effective night's slumber isn't as simple as 'close eyes, drift off, wake up'. It relies on passing through several stages - one being slow wave.
Slow wave (the deep sleep) is your restorative stage, which is crucial for recuperation, memory consolidation, emotional modulation, performance, and learning. So, even one night of tossing and turning impairs cognition, inability to stay focused; dampened motivation; compromised problem solving and loss of empathy. Furthermore, short sleep has an adverse effect on physical health with small but measurable increases in risk of heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and our waistline.
POOR SLEEP EQUALS MORE BELLY FAT
Ever noticed how staying up late almost always involves a hankering for something sweet or a bag of chips? For starters, the longer you stay awake, the more time you have to eat. However, favouring Netflix over snoozing also puts your body at a chemical disadvantage, which in turn is related to belly fat.
During sleep, the body balances several hormones and research shows that people who were sleeping (on average) six hours a night had a waist measurement that was 3cm greater than individuals who were getting nine hours of sleep a night. Why? Poor sleep quality messes with brain regions that control appetite, making it hard to stick to a sensible eating pattern. While you (think) you're able to cope just fine - after all, coffee does wonders - the hormones that control your fat cells don't feel the same way. Specifically, your 'sleep-deprived' fat cells are unable to respond effectively to the hormone insulin, resulting in an inability to regulate energy or summon it for use. As you can imagine, this is a fast road to laying down more fat around the waistline - or in more prolonged cases, heightened risk of metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes.
SUCCESSFUL SLEEP MADE SIMPLER
Sleep is one of those things that we all wish we were better at. But, sadly, there's no miracle way to master it every night.
Having said that, there are healthy habits you can adopt to better set yourself up for a satisfactory slumber
• Make sleep irresistible: There's a lot to be said for the lure of soft sheets, a comfy mattress and a soothing, dark ambience. Into candles? Throw them in too (maybe use electric candles if you don't trust yourself to blow them out before you go to sleep!). The key is making your bedroom a haven.
• Disable your devices: Your mind goes a million miles per hour all day long. And staring at your mobile phone or the TV right up to bedtime doesn't allow your mind to unwind. So, make a firm 'no devices 30 minutes before bed' rule and allow yourself to drift off with less effort.
• Get moving: Exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand. In most cases, the better you sleep, the better you exercise; and the better you exercise, the better you sleep.
And hitting the sack is the real secret to muscle building. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn't have time to release the growth hormone (HGH), which stimulates growth and repair of muscles, which in turn boosts metabolism and fat burn.
• Avoid stimulants: It seems obvious, but having coffee or alcohol too late in the day - or in too greater quantities - can affect your ability to reach that much-needed deep sleep stage.
Kathleen Alleaume is a nutrition and exercise scientist and founder of The Right Balance. Follow her @therightbalance